Algeria

Executive Summary

Algeria’s state enterprise-dominated economy is challenging for U.S. businesses, but multiple sectors offer opportunities for long-term growth.  The government is prioritizing investment in agriculture, information and communications technology, mining, hydrocarbons (both upstream and downstream), renewable energy, and healthcare.

The election of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in December 2019 eliminated some of the uncertainty that marked the eight-month interim government which led the country following the April 2019 resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.  In response to continuing demands for political reform, Tebboune issued a draft of a new constitution in May 2020, and has proposed legislative elections before the end of the year.

In 2019, the government eliminated the so-called “51/49” restriction that required majority Algerian ownership of all new businesses.  The requirement will be retained for “strategic sectors,” identified as hydrocarbons, mining, defense, and pharmaceuticals manufacturing.  The government also passed a new hydrocarbons law, improving fiscal terms and contract flexibility in order to attract new international investors.  Following the enactment of this legislation, major international oil companies have signed memorandums of understanding with national hydrocarbons company Sonatrach.

Algeria’s economy is driven by hydrocarbons production.  Hydrocarbons account for 93 percent of export revenues and are the largest source of government income.  With the drop in oil prices in March 2020, the government calculated revenues would drop to roughly half of what the 2020 budget originally anticipated.  The government reduced investment by fifty percent in the energy sector, and investment in other sectors is likely to suffer large decreases and may only proceed if the historically debt-resistant government obtains foreign financing.  The government’s 2020 budget indicated such debt was possible, but officials have equivocated in public statements.  The government hopes to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost employment and replace imports with local production.  Traditionally, Algeria has pursued protectionist policies to encourage the development of local industries.  The import substitution policies it employs tend to generate regulatory uncertainty, supply shortages, increased prices, and limited selection.

The government has taken measures to minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, including delaying tax payments for small businesses, extending credit and restructuring loan payments, and decreasing banks’ reserve requirements.

Economic operators deal with a range of challenges, including complicated customs procedures, cumbersome bureaucracy, difficulties in monetary transfers, and price competition from international rivals, particularly from China, Turkey, and France.  International firms that operate in Algeria complain that laws and regulations are constantly shifting and applied unevenly, raising commercial risk for foreign investors.  An ongoing anti-corruption campaign has increased wariness regarding large-scale investment projects.  Business contracts are subject to changing interpretation and revision of regulations, which has proved challenging to U.S. and international firms.  Other drawbacks include limited regional integration.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 106 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 157 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 113 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $2,749 https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet//
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 3,970 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The national government manages all regulatory processes.  Legal and regulatory procedures, as written, are considered consistent with international norms, although the decision-making process is at times opaque.

Algeria implemented the Financial Accounting System (FAS) in 2010.  Though legislation does not make explicit references, FAS appears to be based on International Accounting Standards Board and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  Operators generally find accounting standards follow international norms, though they note that some particularly complex processes in IFRS have detailed explanations and instructions but are explained relatively briefly in FAS.

There is no mechanism for public comment on draft laws, regulations or regulatory procedures.  Copies of draft laws are not made publicly accessible before enactment.  Government officials often give testimony to Parliament on draft legislation, and that testimony typically receives press coverage.  Occasionally, copies of bills are leaked to the media.   All laws and some regulations are published in the Official Gazette (www.joradp.dz ) in Arabic and French, but the database has only limited online search features and no summaries are published.  Secondary legislation and/or administrative acts (known as ‘circulaires’ or ‘directives’) often provide important details on how to implement laws and procedures.  Administrative acts are generally written at the ministry level and not made public, though may be available if requested in person at a particular agency or ministry.  Public tenders are often accompanied by a book of specifications only provided upon payment.

In some cases, authority over a matter may rest among multiple ministries, which may impose additional bureaucratic steps and the likelihood of either inaction or the issuance of conflicting regulations.  The development of regulations occurs largely away from public view; internal discussions at or between ministries are not usually made public.  In some instances, the only public interaction on regulations development is a press release from the official state press service at the conclusion of the process; in other cases, a press release is issued earlier.  Regulatory enforcement mechanisms and agencies exist at some ministries, but they are usually understaffed and enforcement remains weak.

The National Economic and Social Council (CNES) studies the effects of Algerian government policies and regulations in economic and social spheres.  The CNES provides feedback on proposed legislation, but neither the feedback nor legislation are necessarily made public.

Information on external debt obligations up to fiscal year 2018 was publicly available via the Central Bank’s quarterly statistical bulletin online .  The statistical bulletin describes external debt and not public debt, but the Ministry of Finance’s budget execution summaries reflect amalgamated debt totals.  The Ministry of Finance is planning to create an electronic, consolidated database of internal and external debt information, and in 2019 published additional public debt information on its website.  A 2017 amendment to the 2003 law on currency and credit covering non-conventional financing authorizes the Central Bank to purchase bonds directly from the Treasury for a period of up to five years.   The Ministry of Finance indicated this would include purchasing debt from state enterprises, allowing the Central Bank to transfer money to the treasury, which would then provide the cash to, for example, state owned enterprises in exchange for their debt.  In September 2019, the Prime Minister announced Algeria would no longer use non-conventional financing, although the Ministry of Finance stressed the program remains available until 2022.

International Regulatory Considerations

Algeria is not a member of any regional economic bloc or of the WTO.  The structure of Algerian regulations largely follows European – specifically French – standards.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Algeria’s legal system is based on the French civil law tradition.  The commercial law was established in 1975 and most recently updated in 2007 (www.joradp.dz/TRV/FCom.pdf ).  The judiciary is nominally independent from the executive branch, but U.S. companies have reported allegations of political pressure exerted on the courts by the executive.  Organizations representing lawyers and judges have protested during the past year against alleged executive branch interference in judicial independence.  Regulation enforcement actions are adjudicated in the national courts system and are appealable.  Algeria has a system of administrative tribunals for adjudicating disputes with the government, distinct from the courts that handle civil disputes and criminal cases.  Decisions made under treaties or conventions to which Algeria is a signatory are binding and enforceable under Algerian law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 51/49 investment rule requires a majority Algerian ownership for all investments, though pending guidance from the Algerian government will limit the rule to “strategic sectors” as prescribed in the 2020 Finance Law (see section 2).  There are few other laws restricting foreign investment.  In practice, the many regulatory and bureaucratic requirements for business operations provide officials avenues to advance informally political or protectionist policies.  The investments law enacted in 2016 charged ANDI with creating four new branches to assist with business establishment and the management of investment incentives.  ANDI’s website (www.andi.dz/index.php/en/investir-en-algerie ) lists the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.  Much of the information lacks detail – particularly for the new incentives elaborated in the 2016 investments law – and refers prospective investors to ANDI’s physical “one-stop shops” located throughout the country.

There is an ongoing effort by the customs service, under the Ministry of Finance, to establish a new digital platform featuring one-stop shops for importers and exports to streamline bureaucratic processes.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The National Competition Council (www.conseil-concurrence.dz/ ) is responsible for reviewing both domestic and foreign competition-related concerns.  Established in late 2013, it is housed under the Ministry of Commerce.  Once the economic concentration of an enterprise exceeds 40 percent of a market’s sales or purchases, the Competition Council is authorized to investigate, though a 2008 directive from the Ministry of Commerce exempted economic operators working for national economic progress from this review.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Algerian state can expropriate property under limited circumstances, with the state required to pay “just and equitable” compensation to the property owners.  Expropriation of property is extremely rare, with no cases within the last 10 years.  In late 2018, however, a government measure required farmers to comply with a new regulation altering the concession contracts of their land in a way that would cede more control to the government.  Those who refused to switch contract type by December 31, 2018 lost their right to their land.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Algeria is a signatory to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (The New York Convention) and the Convention on the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention).  The Algerian code of civil procedure allows both private and public sector companies full recourse to international arbitration.  Algeria permits the inclusion of international arbitration clauses in contracts.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investment disputes sometimes occur, especially on major projects.  Investment disputes can be settled informally through negotiations between the parties or via the domestic court system.  For disputes with foreign investors, cases can be decided through international arbitration.  The most common disputes in the last several years have involved state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach and its foreign partners concerning the retroactive application since 2006 of a windfall profits tax on hydrocarbons production.  Sonatrach won a case in October 2016 against a Spanish oil company and two Korean firms.  An international firm won one of their cases against Sonatrach in 2016.  In 2018, Sonatrach announced it had settled all outstanding international disputes.

The most recent investment dispute involving a U.S. company dates to 2012.  The company, which had encountered bureaucratic barriers to the expatriation of dividends from a 2005 investment, did not resort to arbitration.  The dispute was resolved in 2017, with the government permitting the company to expatriate the dividends.

There is no U.S.-Algeria Bilateral Investment Treaty or Free Trade Agreement.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACI), the nationwide, state-supported chamber of commerce, has the authority to arbitrate investment disputes as an agent of the court.  The bureaucratic nature of Algeria’s economic and legal system, as well as its opaque decision-making process, means that disputes can drag on for years before a resolution is reached.  Businesses have reported cases in the court system are subject to political influence and generally tend to favor the government’s position.

Local courts recognize and have the authority to enforce foreign arbitral awards.  Nearly all contracts between foreign and Algerian partners include clauses for international arbitration.  The Ministry of Justice is in charge of enforcing arbitral awards against SOEs.

Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are not widely used.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Algeria’s bankruptcy system is underdeveloped.  While bankruptcy per se is not criminalized, management decisions (such as company spending, investment decisions, and even procedural mistakes) are subject to criminal penalties including fines and incarceration, so decisions that lead to bankruptcy could be punishable under Algerian criminal law.  However, bankruptcy cases rarely proceed to a full dissolution of assets.  The Algerian government generally props up public companies on the verge of bankruptcy via cash infusions from the public banking system.  According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, debtors and creditors may file for both liquidation and reorganization.

In the past year, the court gave the government authority to put several companies in receivership and appointed temporary heads to direct them following the arrests of their CEOs as part of a broad anti-corruption drive.  The status and viability of several of those companies is unclear.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property are generally recognized and enforceable, but court proceedings can be lengthy and results unpredictable.  All property not clearly titled to private owners remains under government ownership.  As a result, the government controls most real property in Algeria, and instances of unclear titling have resulted in conflicting claims of ownership, which has made purchasing and financing real estate difficult.  Several business contacts have reported significant difficulty in obtaining land from the government to develop new industrial activities; the state prefers to lease land for 33-year terms, renewable twice, rather than sell outright.  The procedures and criteria for awarding land contracts are opaque.

Property sales are subject to registration at the tax inspection and publication office at the Mortgage Register Center and are part of the public record of that agency.  All property contracts must go through a notary.

According to the World Bank Doing Business report, Algeria ranks 165 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Patent and trademark protection in Algeria remains covered by a series of ordinances dating from 2003 and 2005, and representatives of U.S. companies operating in Algeria reported that these laws were satisfactory in terms of both the scope of what they cover and the penalties they mandate for violations.  A 2015 government decree increased coordination between the National Office of Copyrights and Related Rights (ONDA), the National Institute for Industrial Property (INAPI), and law enforcement to pursue patent and trademark infringements.

ONDA, under the Ministry of Culture, and INAPI, under the Ministry of Industry and Mines, are the two entities within the Algerian government that protect IPR.  ONDA covers literary and artistic copyrights as well as digital software rights, while INAPI oversees the registration and protection of industrial trademarks and patents.  Despite strengthened efforts at ONDA, INAPI, and the General Directorate for Customs (under the Ministry of Finance), which have seen local production of pirated or counterfeit goods nearly disappear since 2011, imported counterfeit goods are prevalent and easily obtained.  Algerian law enforcement agencies annually confiscate several hundred items, including clothing, cosmetics, sports items, foodstuffs, automotive spare parts, and home appliances.  ONDA destroyed more than 100,000 copies of pirated media to commemorate World Intellectual Property Day in 2017, but software firms estimate that more than 85 percent of the software used in Algeria, and a similar percentage of titles used by government institutions and state-owned companies, is not licensed.

Algeria has remained on the Priority Watch List of USTR’s Special 301 Report (https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/Special-301) since 2009.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Algiers Stock Exchange has five stocks listed – each at no more than 35 percent equity.  There is a small and medium enterprise exchange with one listed company.  The exchange has a total market capitalization representing less than 0.1 percent of Algeria’s GDP.  Daily trading volume on the exchange averages around USD 2,000.  Despite its small size, the market functions well and is adequately regulated by an independent oversight commission that enforces compliance requirements on listed companies and traders.

Government officials aim to reach a capitalization of USD 7.8 billion in the next five years and enlist up to 50 new companies.  Attempts to list additional companies have been stymied by a lack both of public awareness and appetite for portfolio investment, as well as by private and public companies’ unpreparedness to satisfy due diligence requirements that would attract investors.  Proposed privatizations of state-owned companies have also been opposed by the public.  Algerian society generally prefers material investment vehicles for savings, namely cash.  Public banks, which dominate the banking sector (see below), are required to purchase government securities when offered, meaning they have little leftover liquidity to make other investments.  Foreign portfolio investment is prohibited – the purchase of any investment product in Algeria, whether a government or corporate bond or equity stock, is limited to Algerian residents only.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is roughly 85 percent public and 15 percent private as measured by value of assets held, and is regulated by an independent central bank.  Publicly available data from private institutions and U.S. Federal Reserve Economic Data show estimated total assets in the commercial banking sector in 2017 were roughly 13.9 trillion dinars (USD 116.7 billion) against 9.2 trillion dinars (USD 77.2 billion) in liabilities.  The central bank had mandated a 12 percent reserve requirement until mid-2016, when in response to a drop in liquidity the bank lowered the threshold to eight percent.  In August 2017, the ratio was further reduced to 4% in an effort to inject further liquidity into the banking system.  The decrease in liquidity was a result of all public banks buying government bonds in the first public bond issuance in more than 10 years; buying at least five percent of the offered bonds is required for banks to participate as primary dealers in the government securities market.  The bond issuance essentially returned funds to the state that it had deposited at local banks during years of high hydrocarbons profits.  In January 2018, the bank increased the retention ratio from 4 percent to 8 percent, followed by a further increase in February 2019 to a 12 percent ratio  in anticipation of a rise in bank liquidity due to the government’s non-conventional financing policy, which allows the Treasury to borrow directly from the central bank to pay state debts.  In response to liquidity concerns caused by the oil price decline in March 2020, the bank decreased the reserve requirement to 8 percent.

The IMF and Bank of Algeria have noted moderate growth in non-performing assets, currently estimated between 10-12 percent of total assets.  The quality of service in public banks is generally considered low as generations of public banking executives and workers trained to operate in a statist economy lack familiarity with modern banking practices.  Most transactions are materialized (non-electronic).  Many areas of the country suffer from a dearth of branches, leaving large amounts of the population without access to banking services.  ATMs are not widespread, especially outside the major cities, and few accept foreign bankcards.  Outside of major hotels with international clientele, hardly any retail establishments accept credit cards.  Algerian banks do issue debit cards, but the system is distinct from any international payment system.  In addition, approximately 4.6 trillion dinars ( USD 40 billion), or one-third, of the money supply is estimated to circulate in the informal economy.

Foreigners can open foreign currency accounts without restriction, but proof of a work permit or residency is required to open an account in Algerian dinars.  Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in the country, but they must be legally distinct entities from their overseas home offices.

In 2015, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Algeria from its Public Statement, and in 2016 it removed Algeria from the “gray list.”  The FATF recognized Algeria’s significant progress and the improvement in its anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.  The FATF also indicated Algeria has substantially addressed its action plan since strategic deficiencies were identified in 2011.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are few statutory restrictions on foreign investors converting, transferring, or repatriating funds, according to banking executives.  Monies cannot be expatriated to pay royalties or to pay for services provided by resident foreign companies.  The difficultly with conversions and transfers results mostly from the procedures of the transfers rather than the statutory limitations: the process is bureaucratic and requires almost 30 different steps from start to finish.  Missteps at any stage can slow down or completely halt the process.  Transfers should take roughly one month to complete, but often take three to six months.  Also, the Algerian government has been known to delay the process as leverage in commercial and financial disputes with foreign companies.

Expatriated funds can be converted to any world currency.  The IMF classifies the exchange rate regime as an “other managed arrangement,” with the central bank pegging the value of the Algerian dinar (DZD) to a “basket” composed of 64 percent of the value of the U.S. dollar and 36 percent of the value of the euro.  The currency’s value is not controlled by any market mechanism and is set solely by the central bank.  As the Central Bank controls the official exchange rate of the dinar, any change in its value could be considered currency manipulation.  When dollar-denominated hydrocarbons profits fell starting in mid-2014, the central bank allowed a slow depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over 24 months, culminating in about a 30 percent fall in its value before stabilizing around 110 dinars to the U.S. dollar in late 2016.  However, the dinar lost only about 10 percent of its value against the euro in the same time frame.  The 2020 Finance Law forecast a 10 percent depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over three years.  Between March 8 and March 30 2020, the government allowed the dinar to depreciate five percent against the dollar.  Imbalances in foreign exchange supply and demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 led to a steep decline in the value of the euro and dollar on the foreign exchange black market.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to remittance policies.  Algerian exchange control law remains strict and complex. There are no specific time limitations, although the bureaucracy involved in remittances can often slow the process to as long as six months.  Personal transfers of foreign currency into the country must be justified and declared as not for business purpose.  There is no legal parallel market through which investors can remit; however, there is a substantial black market for foreign currency, where the dollar and euro trade at a significant premium above official rates, although economic disruptions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 led to interruptions in the functioning of the black market.  With the more favorable informal rates, local sources report that most remittances occur via foreign currency hand-carried into the country.  Under central bank regulations revised in September 2016, travelers to Algeria are permitted to enter the country with up to 1,000 euros or equivalent without declaring the funds to customs.  However, any non-resident can only exchange dinars back to a foreign currency with proof of initial conversion from the foreign currency.  The same regulations prohibit the transfer of more than 3,000 dinars (USD 26) outside Algeria.

Private citizens may convert up to 15,000 dinars (USD 127) per year for travel abroad.  To do the conversion, they must demonstrate proof of their intention to travel abroad through plane tickets or other official documents.

In April 2019, the Finance Ministry announced the creation of a vigilance committee to monitor and control financial transactions to foreign countries.  It divided operations into three categories relating to 1) imports, 2) investments abroad, and 3) transfer abroad of profits.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Algeria’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is the “Fonds de Regulation des Recettes (FRR).”  The Finance Ministry’s website shows the fund decreased from 4408.2 billion dinars (USD 37.36 billion) in 2014 to 784.5 billion dinars (USD 6.65 billion) in 2016.  Algerian media reported the FRR was spent down to zero as of February 2017.  Algeria is not known to have participated in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWF’s.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) comprise more than half of the formal Algerian economy.  SOEs are amalgamated into a single line of the state budget and are listed in the official business registry.  To be defined as an SOE, a company must be at least 51 percent owned by the state.

Algerian SOEs are bureaucratic and may be subject to political influence.  There are competing lines of authority at the mid-levels, and contacts report mid- and upper-level managers are reluctant to make decisions because internal accusations of favoritism or corruption are often used to settle political and personal scores.  Senior management teams at SOEs report to their relevant ministry; CEOs of the larger companies such as national hydrocarbons company Sonatrach, national electric utility Sonelgaz, and airline Air Algerie report directly to ministers.  Boards of directors are appointed by the state, and the allocation of these seats is considered political.  SOEs are not known to adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance.

Legally, public and private companies compete under the same terms with respect to market share, products and services, and incentives.  In reality, private enterprises assert that public companies sometimes receive more favorable treatment.  Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, but they work with private banks and they are less bureaucratic than their public counterparts.  Public companies refrained from doing business with private banks and a 2008 government directive ordered public companies to work only with public banks.  The directive was later officially rescinded, but public companies continued the practice.  However, the heads of Algeria’s two largest state enterprises, Sonatrach and Sonelgaz, both indicated in 2020 that given current budget pressures they are investigating recourse to foreign financing, including from private banks.  SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors, but business contacts report that the government favors SOEs over private sector companies in terms of access to land.

SOEs are subject to budget constraints.  Audits of public companies can be conducted by the Court of Auditors, a financially autonomous institution.  The constitution explicitly charges it with “ex post inspection of the finances of the state, collectivities, public services, and commercial capital of the state,” as well as preparing and submitting an annual report to the President, heads of both chambers of Parliament, and Prime Minister.  The Court makes its audits public on its website, for free, but with a time delay, which does not conform to international norms.

The Court conducts audits simultaneously but independently from the Ministry of Finance’s year-end reports.  The Court makes its reports available online once finalized and delivered to the Parliament, whereas the Ministry withholds publishing year-end reports until after the Parliament and President have approved them.  The Court’s audit reports cover the entire implemented national budget by fiscal year and examine each annual planning budget that is passed by Parliament.

The General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF), the public auditing body under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, can conduct “no-notice” audits of public companies.  The results of these audits are sent directly to the Minister of Finance, and the offices of the President and Prime Minister.  They are not made available publicly.  The Court of Auditors and IGF previously had joint responsibility for auditing certain accounts, but they are in the process of eliminating this redundancy.  Further legislation clarifying whether the delineation of responsibility for particular accounts which could rest with the Court of Auditors or the Ministry of Finance’s General Inspection of Finance (IGF) unit has yet to be issued.

Privatization Program

There has been limited privatization of certain projects previously managed by SOEs, and so far restricted to the water sector and possibly a few other sectors.  However, the privatization of SOEs remains publicly sensitive and has been largely halted.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Multinational, and particularly U.S., firms operating in Algeria are spreading the concept of responsible business conduct (RBC), which has traditionally been less common among domestic firms.  Companies such as Anadarko, Cisco, Microsoft, Boeing, Dow, and Berlitz have supported programs aimed at youth employment, education, and entrepreneurship.  RBC activities are gaining acceptance as a way for companies to contribute to local communities while often addressing business needs, such as a better-educated workforce.  The national oil and gas company, Sonatrach, funds some social services for its employees and supports desert communities near production sites.  Still, many Algerian companies view social programs as the government’s responsibility.  While state entities welcome foreign companies’ RBC activities, the government does not factor them into procurement decisions, nor does it require companies to disclose their RBC activities.  Algerian laws for consumer and environmental protections exist but are weakly enforced.

Algeria does not adhere to the OECD or UN Guiding Principles and does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Algeria ranks 73 out of 89 countries for resource governance and does not comply with rules set for disclosing environmental impact assessments and mitigation management plans, according to the most recent report by National Resource Governance Index.

9. Corruption

The current anti-corruption law dates to 2006.  In 2013, the Algerian government created the Central Office for the Suppression of Corruption (OCRC) to investigate and prosecute any form of bribery in Algeria.  The number of cases currently being investigated by the OCRC is not available.  In 2010, the government created the National Organization for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption (ONPLC) as stipulated in the 2006 anti-corruption law.  The Chairman and members of this commission are appointed by a presidential decree.  The commission studies financial holdings of public officials, though not their relatives, and carries out studies.  Since 2013, the Financial Intelligence Unit has been strengthened by new regulations that have given the unit more authority to address illegal monetary transactions and terrorism funding.  In 2016, the government updated its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance legislation to bolster the authority of the financial intelligence unit to monitor suspicious financial transactions and refer violations of the law to prosecutorial magistrates.  Algeria signed the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2003.

The Algerian government does not require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials.  The use of internal controls against bribery of government officials varies by company, with some upholding those standards and others rumored to offer bribes.  Algeria is not a participant in regional or international anti-corruption initiatives.  Algeria does not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.  While whistleblower protections for Algerian citizens who report corruption exist, members of Algeria’s anti-corruption bodies believe they need to be strengthened to be effective.

International and Algerian economic operators have identified corruption as a challenge for FDI.  They indicate that foreign companies with strict compliance standards cannot effectively compete against companies which can offer special incentives to those making decisions about contract awards.  Economic operators have also indicated that complex bureaucratic procedures are sometimes manipulated by political actors to ensure economic benefits accrue to favored individuals in a non-transparent way.  Anti-corruption efforts have so far focused more on prosecuting previous acts of corruption rather than on institutional reforms to reduce the incentives and opportunities for corruption.  In October 2019, the government adopted legislation which allowed police to launch anti-corruption investigations without first receiving a formal complaint against the entity in question.  Proponents argued the measure is necessary given Algeria’s weak whistle blower protections.

Currently the government is working with international partners to update legal mechanisms to deal with corruption issues.  The government also created a new institution to target and deter the practice of overbilling on invoices, which has been used to unlawfully transfer foreign currency out of the country.

The government imprisoned numerous prominent economic and political figures in 2019 and 2020 as part of an anti-corruption campaign.  Some operators report that fear of being accused of corruption has made some officials less willing to make decisions, delaying some investment approvals.  Corruption cases that have reached trial deal largely with state investment in the automotive and public works sectors, though other cases are reportedly under investigation.

Resources to Report Corruption

Official government agencies:

Central Office for the Suppression of Corruption (OCRC)
Mokhtar Lakhdari, General Director
Placette el Qods, Hydra, Algiers
+213 21 68 63 12
www.facebook.com/263685900503591/ 
no email address publicly available

National Organization for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption (ONPLC)
Tarek Kour, President
14 Rue Souidani Boudjemaa, El Mouradia, Algiers
+213 21 23 94 76
www.onplc.org.dz/index.php/ 
contact@onplc.org.dz

Watchdog organization:

Djilali Hadjadj
President
Algerian Association Against Corruption (AACC)
www.facebook.com/215181501888412/ 
+213 07 71 43 97 08
aaccalgerie@yahoo.fr

10. Political and Security Environment

Following nearly two months of massive protests, known as the hirak, former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned on April 2, 2019, after 20 years in power.  His resignation launched an eight-month transition, resulting in the election of Abdelmadjid Tebboune as president in December 2019.  Voter turnout was approximately 40% and the new administration has focused on restoring government authority and legitimacy.

Prior to the hirak, demonstrations in Algeria tended to concern housing and other social programs and were generally smaller than a few hundred participants.  While most protests were peaceful, there were occasional outbreaks of violence that resulted in injuries, sometimes resulting from efforts of security forces to disperse the protests.

Government reactions to public unrest typically include tighter security control on movement between and within cities to prevent further clashes and promises of either greater public expenditures on local infrastructure or increased local hiring for state-owned companies.  During the first few months of 2015, there were a series of protests in several cities in southern Algeria against the government’s program to drill test wells for shale gas.  These protests were largely peaceful but sometimes resulted in clashes, injury, and rarely, property damage.  Government pronouncements in 2017 that shale gas exploration would recommence did not generate protests.

On April 27, 2020, an Algerian court sentenced an expatriate manager and an Algerian employee of a large hotel to six months in prison on charges of “undermining the integrity of the national territory” for allegedly sharing publicly available security information with corporate headquarters outside of Algeria.

The Algerian government requires all foreign employees of foreign companies or organizations based in Algeria to contact the Foreigners Office of the Ministry of the Interior before traveling in the country’s interior so that the government can evaluate security conditions.  The Algerian government also requires U.S. Embassy employees to request permission and a police escort to visit the Casbah in Algiers and to coordinate travel with the government on any trip outside of the Algiers wilaya (province).  In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Algerian government imposed lockdowns or curfews throughout the country, cancelled events and gatherings, suspended public transportation and domestic and international flights, and required 50 percent of all non-essential employees to stay at home.  These restrictions may impact where and when certain U.S. consular services can be provided.

The government’s efforts to reduce terrorism have focused on proactive security services and social reconciliation and reintegration.  Isolated terrorist incidents still occasionally occur.  There have been two major attacks on oil and gas installations in the last 10 years.  In March 2016, terrorists launched a homemade rocket attack on a gas facility in central Algeria that caused limited damage but no casualties.  In January 2013, there was a major attack at a remote oil and gas facility near the town of In Amenas in southeast Algeria (approximately 1,500 kilometers from Algiers) in which nearly 40 people – mostly western energy sector workers, including three Americans – were killed.

Terrorist attacks usually target Algerian government interests and security forces and generally occur outside of major cities, particularly in mountainous or remote southern areas.  On November 18, 2019, Algerian forces killed two alleged ISIS members during an operation along the southern border with Mali.  In February 2020, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber who attacked a military barracks in southern Algeria, killing a soldier.  Other terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS include an August 2017 suicide attack in Tiaret that killed two police officers, and a February 2017 attack that injured two police officers in Constantine.

Each of these attacks prompted a swift counterterrorism response by Algerian security services against the militants responsible for the attacks, and the military continues regular counterterrorism operations.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Algeria are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) via the State Department’s travel registration website, https://step.state.gov/step, to receive security messages and make it easier to be located in an emergency.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

An Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreement between the U.S and Algeria was signed in June 1990.  In 2005, the Algerian Energy Company entered a deal with Ionics Inc. of Watertown, Massachusetts, in which Ionics agreed to build a water desalination plant and the state water authority took a minority stake in the plant and agreed to purchase the bulk of the clean water produced.  OPIC provided a USD 200 million loan to Ionics, a desalination equipment manufacturer that was later acquired by General Electric.  In 2017, GE sold its stake in the Algiers water desalination plant, OPIC’s first and only project in Algeria to date.

An investment fund which used OPIC financing is in the process of selling assets in Algeria.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S Embassy Algiers
Political and Economic Section
5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi, El Biar Algiers, Algeria
(+213) 0770 082 153
Algiers_polecon@state.gov

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